The Man from Nantucket
When my sister-in-law invited us to Nantucket, Massachusetts to celebrate her birthday, we happily agreed. Nantucket wasn’t on our radar at all, but she had been there before and loved it. We flew into Boston, spent the night there then drove to Hyannis to catch a ferry to Nantucket. We were arriving in December to experience the Nantucket Christmas Stroll. Sounds somewhat interesting, but we have something similar in Kingsburg called the Julgranfest and assumed it would be like that. Very wrong. We were shocked at the thousands of people who were there. Many were dressed in fun Christmas attire such as a group of lobsters and a large family of Who’s from Whoville . People even dressed up their dogs. It started decades ago when the merchants of Nantucket didn’t want their residents travelling to Cape Cod to shop for Christmas presents. The festivities begin the first full weekend in December and last from Friday through Sunday with the highlight event being Santa arriving by boat and announced by the Town Crier. As Santa boards the historic fire engine and makes his way through town, those lined up to greet him follow along. There are so many people, it’s hard to do anything but follow in the crowd.
We stayed at a Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) house that is located in the downtown area. The cost this time of year for the rental is about $300 per night. For the Stroll weekend the cost soars to $1100 per night. And this is for a small home. It is in walking distance from the ferry and downtown. Everything we wanted to see was in the downtown area so we left our rented Lincoln Navigator at the ferry parking lot in Hyannis. We were glad we did as there was a great amount of traffic and very little parking.
I usually go for runs when traveling but couldn’t do so in Nantucket. The downtown streets are created with cobble stone making a good run impossible. The regularly paved streets just outside of downtown are too narrow to be safe. Because the island is heavily populated with tourists and owners of summer vacation homes the island pretty much closes for the winter months. The Stroll weekend is the exception. We participated in the walking Tour of Cliff Mansions where we saw multimillion dollar homes owned by the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and former Secretary of State John Kerry. The group wondered how the Kerry security detail were able to protect him when there wasn’t much room to park. And I will say for $50 million dollar homes, I expected them to be bigger and more grandiose. The guide said that for most of the owners, these would be their fourth, fifth or sixth home and that most of them are vacant except for the summer months. Nearly all the houses had lookouts on the roof. I imagine that it would be so amazing to sit up there in the summertime and stare out at the ocean.
We had dinner Saturday night at The Charlie Noble and ordered whole boiled lobsters. Lobster dishes are on just about any menu in the region. And while they were more flavorful than the ones we eat on the West Coast, I’m just too lazy to wrestle with an entire shell of a lobster. I asked the waiter if the chef could undress it for me and the response was a resounding ‘no.’ They were probably in the kitchen snickering at me. In my defense, I didn’t think they brought me the correct tools for such an endeavor.
Sunday we visited the Whaling Museum. Nantucket was considered the whaling capital of the world in the 1700’s and 1800’s. That night we took the evening walking tour, Nantucket Ghosts and Haunted Places. It’s about 80 minutes and we saw five of the most haunted places on the island. We had the perfect tour guide. His inflections, paired with a cold dark night heightened the experience greatly. At the most haunted house on the island, I asked the guide what the owners of the homes think when there are frequent walking tours in front of their homes. He said they don’t mind, and in fact, a couple who had been on the tour years earlier, actually purchased the most haunted one recently. Their son sleeps in the third story room where unseeable entities apply pressure on their human victims leaving them paralyzed for hours. Yeah, I don’t think so, chief. At the last place on the tour, the Unitarian Universalists Church, the guide was talking about the pastor who was seen giving sermons well after he had died. A woman across the street started yelling at us saying ‘What’s the point?’ and other things while pointing at a small window. We figured out that there was an LGBTQ flag, hardly visible, in one of the windows. The theory is she assumed we were talking about that. We explained that we were on a ghost tour to which she retorted that she was a physic. She continued to yell at us as we disbanded. It seems her perception was that she had broken up a group of haters. Maybe she had too much Stroll?
On Monday we left on the ferry back to Hyannis, got our Navigator and drove to Woods Hole to catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Now this is where the title of this blog comes into play. My husband Robert drove that monstrosity from Boston through Cape Cod on to four ferries, around numerous roundabouts and through many narrow streets. He never complained, got agitated or angry. He was a great sport and didn’t mind getting lost and delayed. And we now know what the word ‘Masshole’ means.
So, Martha’s Vineyard. I thought it would be more posh. Our VRBO was nicer than the Nantucket one and far less expensive. There was a little path on the side of the house that circuitously took me to the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, a place to run. I was able to run all around the pier with beautiful homes and beach as my view. I even got to see the famous bridge in the movie Jaws where the shark comes out of the water. The houses predominantly have cedar siding that turns grey as it weathers. We downloaded the ‘www.getyourguide.com’ to look around the island since there weren’t any actual tours going on in what they call the ‘shoulder season.’ The app uses GPS to tell you what you’re looking at as you drive along. When there isn’t anything noteworthy it will tell you an interesting story about the island. We visited the Gay Head Lighthouse and Mytoi Gardens on our excursion. We took a small ferry to Chappaquiddick, nicknamed ‘Chappy’ by the locals, to see where Ted Kennedy crashed his car off a bridge, killing his passenger. On the other side of the bridge is the ‘Cape Poge Little Neck Bomb Target Site’ where the military practiced bombing during World War II. The sign warns to not go off the paths and to keep pets on leashes because even in 2009 they were still finding practice bombs buried in the dunes.
On Wednesday we took the ferry back to Woods Hole and headed to our next VRBO in Falmouth. The nicest and biggest house yet, also, the least expensive of all of them. Yelp showed an axe throwing bar, which we just HAD to do. Ok, maybe just me and the others indulged me. It’s all in the wrist.
Now we are in Cape Cod, or the Cape. We drove up to Provincetown which was the first place the Pilgrims stopped before reaching Plymouth and today is known as a heavily populated LGBTQ community. In fact, I estimate that every third house had a Pride flag. Unfortunately, the famous Pilgrim Monument was closed for the season. Heading back down the Cape we stopped at the Sandwich Glass Museum and Salt Pond Visitor Center. That evening we stopped in Chatham for their
On the way back to Boston, we made a quick stop at Plymouth. We saw the underwhelming rock that the Pilgrims reportedly stepped on while departing the Mayflower and the Mayflower II which is a replica of the tiny ship that was home to 102 people for 66 days. They don’t provide tours in the off-shoulder season months. On the way back to our hotel near the Logan International Airport we drove by the Boston Commons which was dressed for the season in large Christmas trees, bright lights and a large ice rink.
The weather was good for Massachusetts in the winter. I got to finally wear a coat that I bought for Alaska but didn’t need. There were far less people because of the season and that was nice. But, because we were in tourist places with few tourists, there weren’t very many places open. We learned to call a place before heading that way, despite what Yelp said. The beginning of Spring or the end of Autumn might be better, but then you miss all of the Christmas decorations, which were spectacular. There are signs everywhere warning to watch out for Great White Sharks. Advice included not swimming at dawn or dusk, staying close to the shore, and avoiding seals. It’s funny that they have a sign in this region for densely populated areas which says, ‘Thickly Settled.’ The first thing that struck me when we were in the region was the thick New England accent. According to Google, “Common traits of New England accents are non-rhotic or “r-dropping” pronunciation and a nasal-a sound. The “r-dropping” such as father /fa tha/ may come from the influence of English colonists.” My first encounter was a waitress asking me a question which I didn’t understand even after she repeated it. Finally, Robert figured out she was saying ‘beverage.’ When I responded, she had difficulty understanding that I wanted water. I should have asked for ‘whada.’
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